I am delighted to speak on this incredibly important motion, and I congratulate Mark Pritchard on securing this debate. It is fair to say that I do not always agree with him, but I recognise his strong commitment to animal welfare, which I share.
Hon. Members had the opportunity to debate banning wild animals in circuses in a Westminster Hall debate secured by Robert Flello on 8 June. I am delighted that we now have the opportunity to debate it on the Floor of the House and to vote on it. I make it clear that I will be voting for the motion. There have been suggestions that Conservative Back Benchers are being or have been whipped to vote against the motion. I state categorically that I have not been whipped by any Liberal Democrat Member to vote either way. All I say to Conservative colleagues who may be thinking of voting against the motion is that they should bear in mind the level of public support throughout the country and, more specifically, in their constituencies for a total ban on the use of wild animals in circuses.
My concern is that the Government’s proposal of introducing a licensing scheme may inadvertently legitimise the use of wild animals in circuses, resulting in an increase in their use and an increase in suffering.